JUSTIFICATION – INDISPENSABLE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC
Introduction: Almost 300 years ago, a pastor by the name of Jonathan Edwards began a series of messages in November of 1734 on “Justification by Faith Alone.” He had been the pastor there for almost 6 years when he began these messages. His motivation was the growing impact of false doctrines in the church. Also, values and morality were on a decline in the American colonies. Drunkenness, swearing, immorality, and every form of godlessness were rampant. Young people were roaming the streets at night, hanging out in taverns, and indulging in immoral activities. All of a sudden, two well-known youths in the community died. The people were shocked. Many began to question the meaning of life and death. Members of one small church began praying for their neighbors. By December of 1734, Edwards noted, “the Spirit of God began extraordinarily to set in” and “a great and earnest concern about the great things of religion” brought “more than 300 souls … to Christ.” Keep in mind that the population of Northampton was only 1100. Six young people were converted. Among them was a young girl who had a bad reputation. The news of her salvation spread like wildfire! Revival fires began to spread to other parts of the nation through the preaching of men like George Whitefield. Between 1740-42, the First Great Awakening came through the colonies. Hope was restored and our nation was saved from disaster. Main point: We are facing disastrous times in our nation again, and even in the world. The only hope is the truth of God. Not just any truth, but the truth about salvation through Jesus Christ. More specifically, we need to hear about indispensable doctrines like “justification by faith alone.”
Romans 3 27 “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.”
Context: In today’s message, I want to lay out the foundation for this series. Some of things that I will cover may appear very basic, and that is for a reason. I have been amazed how often many people do not understand the basics of salvation. In fact, many of them have the wrong gospel. Sometime back, I did a series on the true gospel and I listed 5 gospels that have been floating around for a long time and they are false (I got my information from Bill Hull who has written prodigiously on discipleship):
- The Forgiveness Only Gospel – It is the most popular gospel. It simply tells you how to get your sins forgiven and get your ticket into heaven. It is partly true and partly false. It is true because it includes the affirmation of certain critical facts about God, Jesus, Sin, Forgiveness, and Eternal Life. It is false because it fails to include certain critical facts about repentance, invitation to follow Jesus, and obedience to his word. It is easy to identify the “Forgiveness Only Gospel” people. Their Christian life revolves around sin management. I like to call them the “Carwash Christians.” Monday through Saturday, do whatever you want to but then Sunday you come and get washed up.
- The Liberal Left Gospel – The old left gospel of the early twentieth century tried to make Christianity relevant to the scientific age. It focused on dismissing the Genesis account of creation, rejecting the miracles in the Bible, and redefining the necessity and meaning of the atonement of Christ. Instead, it focused attention on transforming society through social justice. That’s why the leaders of such gospel churches would always show up in their long robes and their tippets and their cinctures anywhere they could make a statement about injustice. I wish more people who actually believed the gospel would have done this as well. Nonetheless, it wasn’t long before these liberal left gospel churches had nothing but empty pews. These churches are still around. They come up with clever interpretations of the Bible that have nothing to do with the gospel. They love to hide in nice liturgical churches where the leaders don’t believe anything but they let the people do the rituals to soothe their souls.
- The Prosperity Gospel – Unfortunately, this is still the fastest growing false gospel. It promises health and wealth to any who have the faith to believe. They teach that the miracles that happened in the Bible are still available today if you only had the faith. This is very misleading because I believe that God still heals in answer to prayers and that if we do things God’s way that there are blessings that follow. But, this gospel tends to manipulate God and what he has said in his word. Some of the leaders of this movement are usually looking to buy another plane while many of their listeners in third world country are still living in slums. They do a lot of damage to many of us who are trying to preach the truth.
- The Consumer Gospel – This gospel is quite popular in evangelical churches. It is focused on meeting your needs in fast and efficient and professional ways. I’m all for that but without the gospel, it’s no different than paying extra and flying first class instead of economy. Messages are designed to meet your immediate needs (nothing wrong with that) but not too much emphasis on sins and repentance. It’s a guilt free gospel that is designed to help you have a great day. People who have been to such churches have high expectations. They may believe the right overall doctrines but don’t try them too much. If their needs are not met, they will leave. Also, don’t ask them to volunteer or help. They don’t have time for that.
- The Religious Right Gospel – This is the opposite of the liberal left gospel. It has right beliefs. It stands on the right side of moral issues. It separates itself from the sinful corrupt world. Personally, I would agree with all of their convictions. Having said that, they are just as mean and hypocritical as the world they are in opposition to. What makes it worse is that they know enough Bible to justify their sinful behaviors. They are the “do as I say but not as I do” Christians. If I may add, such churches are full of legalism. As Bill Hull says, “there are a lot of dead people at the First Church of the Right because grace there is scarce, and life comes from grace.”
Question: Which gospel do you belong to? The Forgiveness Only Gospel, The Liberal Left Gospel, The Prosperity Gospel, The Consumer Gospel, or The Religious Right Gospel.
So, what is the true gospel? First the Revelation – 1 Corinthians 15 1“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.”
- Jesus brought God’s kingdom into the world.
- He is Christ, God’s Anointed King.
- He died on the cross for our sins, according to Scriptures.
- He was buried but rose again on the third day, according to Scriptures and was seen by many.
- Repent – change of thinking about sin, self, and Savior.
- Believe – trust that Jesus is God’s Son who has paid the penalty of our sins and he can remove the guilt of sin and give eternal life.
- Follow – as our King, we are to obey and follow him no matter the cost.Without this element, the gospel is not the true gospel. First, the decision and then, one day, the test.
Romans 10 9 “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
True Repentance is “change of mind.” In Greek, the noun form is “metanoia,” which is found 24 times; the verbal form is “metanoeo,” which is found 34 times; then, there is “metamelomai,” which is found 6 times. There is a reason I’m giving you all these statistics. The core idea behind all these words is a “change of mind” or a “change of thinking.” For some reason, we have inserted the idea of sorrow or regret. It may have come in through the Roman Catholic translation of “penance” and “penitence” but this was not part of the original biblical understanding. Don’t misunderstand. There may be some tears involved in repentance but they are the right kind of tears. 2 Corinthians 7:10 “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” There’s a big difference between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow. Godly sorrow feels personal guilt against the holiness of God but worldly sorrow only feels regret and remorse. Godly sorrow leads to salvation but worldly sorrow only leads to death. Crying or feeling sorry or feeling ashamed do not guarantee salvation. The key thing is that there’s a change of thinking regarding sin, self, and Savior.
Also, Believe in Him and Follow our Master.
Altogether, 3 responses – Repent, Believe, and Follow. The Holy Spirit helps you with all three of them. The “follow” is important because the gospel that saves us is the gospel of King Jesus. Unfortunately, we have ignored this kingdom aspect in the gospel message. Now we have a gospel which is more like an insurance policy rather than a deed of surrender. It is more like a nonbinding contract rather than an unconditional submission to the king. Don’t misunderstand: The gospel does bring great joy and freedom but it’s through obedience to the king that we have this joy and freedom. The kingdom of God/heaven is very real but it is internal and spiritual and visible only to those who believe in Jesus the King and submit to him.
John 20:31 “but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” We know what Jesus means – “Yahweh or God Saves.” What does Christ mean? It’s not Jesus’ last name! It was the Greek translation of the Hebrew word “Messiah.” The Hebrew word “Messiah” meant “Anointed One,” someone who had been consecrated or set aside for a special task. When the Jewish people translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek, the LXX, they used the word “christos,” which comes from the Greek word “chrio,” that carries the idea of “to anoint or smear with oil.” That’s the best they could do! So, Christ or Messiah meant someone set aside for a special task. By the time Jesus came, it was a very important title and had deep meaning for the Jewish people. It referred to God’s Promised Savior for the world. In fact, the word “Messiah” is found about 39 times in the OT and 9 of the 39 cases were about that someone who was coming in the future to be God’s king.
When you choose to follow Jesus, you have to count the cost. We have to ask ourselves, “What all am I willing to give up in order to be saved?” Please don’t misunderstand. Giving up doesn’t save us. Salvation from start to finish is the work of God. It’s only by grace through faith in the cross of Jesus and the empty tomb that we are saved. But, being willing to give up everything reveals whether or not we understand the gospel. It demonstrates how sincere and how committed we are to follow Christ our king. There is a big difference between salvation and discipleship, but a gospel that does not mention the cost of discipleship is misleading.
Invitation: Which gospel have you believed in? Are you living up to that gospel? Again, it is all by his grace. He enables you all the way through his truth and in the power of the Holy Spirit.